Dec 23 2019

Rugged Mobile Devices Can Stand Up to Tough Energy and Utility Environments

Ruggedized solutions deliver valuable capabilities to workers in challenging conditions.

Mobile devices and smartphones have become essential tools for energy and utility companies to handle a variety of tasks. In fact, the remote location of many energy and utility organizations’ operations makes mobility especially important for the sector. But these companies have another requirement for their mobile solutions: They must be rugged enough to hold up in challenging conditions.

Mobile device manufacturers have established several ruggedized product lines to meet the needs of these companies. Rugged devices not only stand up to punishment from heat, water, impact and dust, but also offer powerful processing, connectivity and communication capabilities.Rugged mobile devices can help workers get their jobs done in all sorts of conditions and terrains, and they can actually save energy and utility companies money in the long run, despite their higher upfront price tag.

Use Cases for Rugged Mobile Devices

Rugged smartphones, handheld devices, tablets and laptops have a number of high-value applications in the field for utilities and energy companies.

Meter reading: Technicians can dock rugged mobile devices in their vehicles to help them navigate to job sites and communicate with dispatchers, then carry the devices into the field to collect meter data and send updates on the status of work orders. Physical keypads can help technicians to enter data in any weather condition — including rain, which often makes it difficult to type on a touch screen.

Inspections and assessments: Panasonic notes that mobile apps running on rugged devices can help with inspections, surveys and assessments: “With the right onsite technology, oil and gas workers can easily manage compressed gas, atmospheric corrosion, fuel station, gas leak, heating oil tank, fuel tank, mine safety, oil rig, relief valve, tank and used oil inspections.” 

Communication: Employees at energy and utility companies rely on mobile devices as communications tools, using their rugged devices to relay information to dispatchers, infrastructure assessment teams, and maintenance and repair crews. Rugged devices help organizations empower employees to communicate better and produce faster responses to service connection and disconnection requests, outages and disruptions.

Safety and compliance: By keeping managers informed about the location of workers via GPS, rugged devices can improve safety in the field. Also, with the right apps, rugged mobile devices allow workers to meet safety compliance requirements through the reporting of incidents and hazards.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Read how utilities can serve SMBs with better digital experiences.

The Financial Benefits of Rugged Devices

Although rugged devices typically cost more than consumer-grade smartphones and tablets, they can help organizations save money in several ways, according to IDC. Obviously, an investment in rugged devices will limit repair costs. But often, the real cost of a broken device lies in lost productivity. When a broken device means that workers can’t do their jobs effectively — or, worse, when they can’t work at all — the decision to save a few hundred dollars on a consumer device can quickly prove shortsighted. Also, rugged devices often include features (such as daylight-readable screens and hot-swappable batteries) that improve productivity for energy and utility workers even more than standard mobile devices typically would.

“While [rugged] devices cost more up front,” IDC writes in a report, “over time, the benefits in terms of durability and productivity will typically far outweigh the higher initial cost.”

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